Florida is a massive state filled with talented bartenders. There are so many that it feels almost unfair only one bartender will represent the state in the Heaven Hill 2017 Bartender of the Year finals. Fair or not, this fact raised the stakes for the regional competition in Miami, where bartenders from Tampa, Orlando and beyond competed against Miami locals for a free trip to Puerto Rico and a shot at the $15,000 grand prize.
Sweet Liberty, the hip, low-key bar from celebrity mixologist John Lermayer, hosted the event. The setting was casual, and many of the bartenders were friends, so things didn’t get too competitive until the first challenge began.
Emma Kuhl from Orlando took the lead in the first round. Close behind was Miami’s own Courtney Lane, who injured her hand before the competition but churned out amazing cocktails, totally unfazed.
Brenda Terry stood out for the presentation of her cocktails during the first round. The unique, mouthwatering flavors she created stole the show in the second round, giving her an edge over the competition. When the final results came in from judges Lynn House, Gui Jaroschy and Joaquín Simó, Terry was the unanimous winner.
Only one bartender could secure a spot in Puerto Rico for the finals. But everyone who met up in Miami had a great time and delighted those in attendance with their quick thinking, finely tuned skills and stunning performances.
Stay tuned to see if Brenda Terry returns to Florida with $15,000 and the title of 2017 Bartender of the Year.